Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Club Friday Goes British!




Of Woods and Words


End the week with bookish chat. I share what I'm reading, you share what you're reading. If you've written a bookish post yourself in the last week or so, slap the above book club button on it and link up below!

I couldn't resist using the Royal Wedding as an excuse to talk British children's literature. Make yourself cozy and please, won't you have a cup of tea?

But before we go any further . . . Kate Middleton's wedding dress? Yay or nay?
Big, BIG "YAY" in my opinion. Dare I say, it's a little ala Princess Margaret? Nice work Princess Catherine!

Now then . .  .

I've been trying to figure out just when I got to be such an Anglophile and while I'm not exactly sure what happened, I'd like to blame books nonetheless.  

Specifically, these guys . .  .
Actually, now that I think of it, although Pooh and Piglet and the rest of the original A.A. Milne gang (aka not the Disney Pooh . . . what the heck was with Pooh's red shirt anyway?!) were a huge part of my childhood, I think I probably got my first dose of English literature from a Ms. Beatrix Potter. Because of my springtime birthday (aka, the stores were stocked with Easter stuff), I always seemed to receive a lot of bunny stuff for my birthdays and for all the stuffed bunnies and little bunny knick-knacks I once owned, the bunnies who had the most impact on me were Potter's little rabbits. 

I grew out of bunnies, eventually, and moved onto other British children's literature, the kind without sweet little illustrations. I read my copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses until the book jacket wore out. I got lost in the worlds of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and the Borrower books by Mary Norton.Who can resist tales about little people living under the floor boards?!



In my teenage years, I discovered Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.  The books, with their complicated discussions about freewill, sexuality, and religion, have already proven themselves far too complex to work in movie form. They're best reread over and over again to get everything packed into these books. I think I could reread them every year if I didn't think there were a lot of other books out in the world that also deserved my attention.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (who also wrote 101 Dalmations . . .wait, another culprit in making me a nutty Anglophile!), is another British young adult classic. The story is charming, sweet and very British. What more could you want?

I'm missing a ton of other British classics that entertained and help shape both my childhood and my decisions as an adult, but these are the books that came to mind as I pondered childhood favorites by British authors.

What were some of your favorite childhood books? Any favorite British authors? Happy Friday all!





Thursday, April 28, 2011

Confessions of a Slow Writer

Last week, the local radio station interviewed me about my writing life. I found this rather amusing because I am 1) a part-time freelancer who still only supplements her income with writing profits and 2) still shopping for a literary agent which means The Novel isn't even a book, just a Word document (filled with hope!) on my hard drive. That said, it was really fun pretending to be an expert about the writing biz! ;P

The entire interview I was worried I'd get that inevitable question that all writers get asked: "What does a typical writing day look for you?" Thankfully that question never came up.

Because to be honest, I don't really have a typical writing day. I'd love to say that from X hour until Y hour I work on my creative writing projects. And that on a certain day of the week I focus on my freelance projects. Or that I spend an hour every evening/afternoon/morning/whatever doing blog business. But it's really kind of a free-for-all. I do get to everything and met my deadlines, but I don't exactly have a focused approach. I should probably get a little more organized if I actually want to turn this into a business . . . . 

Here's the thing. Whenever I make a goal like "I'm going to write 1000 words on this work in progress every day" it goes really well for the first three days or so and then I kind of peter out. I actually do much better with weekly goals. That way I have the luxury of completing goals when inspiration strikes instead of writing rather uninspired "cardboard-ish" prose every morning because I feel like I should. My completed novel was written by committing to write 1000 words every week. Only in the last two months of that writing project, when I really had momentum, could I churn out 500 words on it 5 times a week.

Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Well, sometimes I fail at the steady part. Sometimes I'm just slow.

I always felt really guilty about being a slow writer. Then I ran into the work of fellow Minnesota Erin Hart, a mystery writer, who calls herself a "molasses-in-January" slow writer.

Maybe this slow writing thing comes from being a Minnesota writer. Maybe the cold weather makes our brains work slower. Or maybe it's just easier to find excuses to be dormant when the world's covered with snow six months out of the year. And after all, it's not that we're not writing, it's just that the words seem to have a round-about way of getting to the page.

I could keep feeling guilty about my putzy writerly ways. Or I could just finally realize I'm never going to be one of those people who can write a novel draft in a month and I can let the words meander in and out of my life as they will. As long as I keep putting the pen to paper on a regular basis I am making progress: one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter at a time.

Are you a slow writer? Or a slow anything?! Have you come to terms with any sort of inconvenient aspect of your personality? 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Word(less?) Wednesday: What I Wore

I'm always stumbling upon fun, cute "what I wore" posts on the blogsphere.Unless we're considering L.L. Bean wool pants fashionable, my lifestyle doesn't really lend itself to "fun and cute" what I wore posts, but when I was looking over pictures from the past week, I realized last Thursday I'd actually done a pretty good job of capturing what I'd wore. 


It started out pretty well. It was so warm and sunny in the house on Thursday, I actually had to put on a lightweight summery top I pulled off the Kohl's clearance rack last summer.


The delightful weather inspired Andy and I to have the season's first cookout. Of course, as soon as we got over to the campground, the sun went behind the cloud. Enter the ancient polarfleece Old Navy pullover and my North Face down vest. Although it's hard to tell, yes, I am totally rocking a brown top and a black vest in this picture.


The only issue with the polarfleece/vest combo is that they're both made out of rather "melt-worthy" materials. Since I didn't fancy melting while I tended the campfire beans, I pulled on one of Andy's wool shirts (probably Woolrich). For a further fashion statement, I made sure my handknit hat (circa X-mas 2009) masked my eyes. And let's not forget my mud-stained Canyon River jeans and those graceful waterproof hiking boots (L.L. Bean)! Cute eh? ;D

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sailing Down the River

Well, not really "sailing" or a "river" for that matter, but on Saturday Andy and I decided we'd had it with the whole ice thing and headed for open water. The creek that runs into the lake we live on has been open for a few weeks now and has slowly been draining into the lake. It's pretty funny to watch the water level on the lake rise while it's still ice covered: as rocks that were exposed all winter become submerged, little rings of ice pop up over the top of the rock.


Anyway, back to Saturday's adventure . . . we grabbed the old beater canoe, strapped it to the top of the truck and headed down the road a piece to put in on the creek.
As we started our paddle down the meandering stream, we found a beaverhouse along the shoreline. I suspect the beavers who live in that house are pretty industrious: during the course of the short paddle, we had to pull the canoe over two beaver dams!
There was just a skim of ice left in some of the creek's shady bends, which made Mr. and Mrs. Duck very happy.

The ducks weren't so happy about having to share the creek with a couple of canoeists though. You could almost hear them thinking every time we got too close and they had to fly off: "What do you have to do to get some peace and quiet around here?!"
The creek runs straight through the 2007 wildfire area and it was truly to heartwarming to see a blanket of baby jack pine trees poking up along the shoreline. 
Just before we got to the mother of all beaver dams, we found an upside down forest reflected back at us.


Andy scoped the beaver dam out, but in the end we decided to turn back. It had started to rain and this way we have an excuse/reason to paddle the rest of the creek some other day.

A dose of summertime fun was just what was needed to break my spring fever!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Recap


Easter's meant to be a time when we take time to focus on rebirth and miracles. But growing up northern Minnesota, my memories of Easter aren't of sunny Easter egg hunts out on the rolling green hills, but of running through the sleet and snow out to the car and spending the ride to church shivering in a breezy spring dress.

This year's late Easter actually gave us Northerners a chance to get in on the whole spring nature of the holiday. Sure, the lake ice is still lingering on, but the ice is growing darker every day; open water must be close at hand. And although it did snow (AGAIN) on Saturday, yesterday dawned sunny and warm so Andy and I spent much his extra day off out in the yard, cleaning out the perennial beds, working the compost, and building cold frames for the deck. 

For whatever reason, I am quite frequently out of town for the Easter holiday. This year marked the first Easter Andy and I have celebrated together at home. Being home for the holiday afforded me a chance to make a batch of homemade hot cross buns. Mmmm, one of my favorites.

I also tried my hand at roasting a leg of lamb for yesterday evening's celebratory dinner. It tasted delicious, but I'm not ready to put "professional lamb roaster" on my resume just yet. It was  . . . very chewy.

We've taken advantage of the sunshine to poke around in the woods a bit lately.  There are lots of signs of new life out there:

Red pine cones
Loons are back!
Some travel plans that were up in the air have been confirmed and that means I need to get my rear in gear to get all my ducks in a row this week. Come on motivation!

I hope you all had lovely Easters/weekends (if you don't celebrate). What did you get up to?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Club Friday! Let's Talk Classics . . .

Of Woods and Words


End the week with bookish chat. I share what I'm reading, you share what you're reading. If you've written a bookish post yourself in the last week or so, slap the above book club button on it and link up below!

I'm still working my way through Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. I'm still enjoying it, but I had to agree with my commenters from last that Italy was the best part of the book. Funny, when the talk turned away from eating, my interest started to wane. Can we please talk about pizza some more? No? Bummer . . . I'm just starting in on the Indonesia section and am finding it much more interesting than her time spent at the Ashram in India. Although there were plenty of important lessons embedded in the India section, I just didn't find it as gripping as other sections.

The other day, I finished up a short story and asked Andy to read it over, to make sure it made sense. "You know what you should read?" he asked when he'd finished reading my latest work. I shook my head. He went over to the bookshelf and pulled out Hemingway's Complete Short Stories. "This!" he said.

Now, I'm not a huge Hemingway fan. While I admire his work, it's never resonated with me. He just more a "boys will be boys" sort of writer and I find men, in general, like his writing way more than women do. Like, way, WAY more. Still, I believe there are lessons a writer can learn from anything they read, so I cracked open a random short story and started reading. I still don't love Hemingway. But I do admire him: for his style, for his storytelling, for his success.

All this talk of Hemingway got me thinking about classic books. Since my junior year of high school, I've been working through the College Board's list of 101 Great Books for the college bound. I'm officially in my fourth year out of college (how can that be true?) and still have 37 books left to read on the list. In that time frame, I have read a fair amount of classics not on the list, but still, 37 left to go? Yikes! For a long time, I was pretty focused on checking off books on the list, but lately I've found I need to mix up my reading a little more (some chick lit, some bestsellers, etc.) to keep both my reading and writing mind refreshed. 

Among my classic favorites: anything Austen, Shakespeare, Henry James, Bronte, and du Maurier. Accessible, well told stories are truly timeless.


Do you read the classics? Why or why not? What are some of your favorites? If you don't read the classics what's your favorite book genre?

Happy Friday!




Thursday, April 21, 2011

And some housekeeping




I recently found out I was awarded not one, not two, but THREE blogging awards. In honor of this momentous occasion, I wanted to pause from Of Woods and Words regularly scheduled programming to give a huge thank you Katie of Chicken Noodle Gravy and Melody-Mae for thinking of me!

While I'll pass on sharing the "required" five facts about myself that come with award receipt, I did want to pass on the three awards to some of my favorite blogs out there:
Narragansett No. 7
The Happy Home
Love is a Journey
Just Add Glitter and Stir
An Irish-Italian Blessing
North on Harper
Meri-Goes-Round
After Nine to Five
In the Past Lane
Sonia's Wonder World
Megwetch Gitchie Manito

If I missed you, it wasn't intentional. I love you all!

One other note . . .


I'm looking for guest bloggers for the first two weeks of May. If you'd like to share a post on writing, gardening, favorite books, crafting, knitting, cooking, evil pine martens, or anything else "Of Woods and Words-ish" please just drop me a line at ada at ofwoodsandwords dot com for more details.

Friendship TERMINATED!

Back in my college days, during my semester in Ireland,  because we weren't being academically challenged and had a ton of free time, we did things like hold Napoleon Dynamite theme dinners, award people with points for witty quips and whenever anything wasn't going well, yell at each other, "Friendship TERMINATED!" Of course it never was. In fact, I'm still in touch with several of those Ireland/college friends today. But I digress . . .

After Tuesday's post about good friends, I thought for the sake of balance, I might as well devote today's  post to fair weather friends. Yeah, you know the type.

Remember Al?
Who couldn't love a face like that?
Oh, Al, our friendly little pine marten friend who liked to show up at our bird feeders on a daily basis this winter to gorge himself on sunflower seeds. He had such a sweet little face. I was charmed by his preference for sunflower seeds over nommy, yummy red squirrel. Our very own vegetarian pine marten.What a pal. And he was CUTE!

As the winter progressed, I began to suspect that Al wasn't a true vegetarian. He was just lazy. Why bother chasing red squirrels when there were oodles of sunflower seeds to be had and a compost pail on the porch to root around in?
Don't worry. You're safe.
But about a month ago we ran out of sunflower seeds and I didn't bother to buy anymore. Spring was coming and the birds could find plenty to eat out in the world beyond our backyard. I was also sick of Al going through the compost pail, only to remember every single time after he'd scattered the contents across the porch that "Oh yeah, I don't like onion skins and lemon peels." The compost pail came back inside.

Al was not pleased. Not one little bit.

In protest, he marched out to the actual compost pile out back and hurled the top layer of compost all over the ground surrounding the pile. As I scooped all the compost back onto the pile, I had to admit, he'd made his point. But his childish behaviors only hardened my resolve. No more sunflower seeds for you, Mr. Lazy-Pants Pine Marten. 

When I went out back a couple days ago to dump out the latest compost pail and found yet another thin layer of compost hurled in a circle outside the bin, I was feeling a little less forgiving about Al's misbehaving. (I know it's you Al, I can see your tracks.) "Enough," I yelled at the skies, shaking my fist in frustration. Spending ten minutes a couple times a week playing with compost just isn't that much fun. 

Then the other day, I headed out to shed to grab some plastic containers to transplant some of my seedlings into. Since the shed wasn't completed last year, Al can, and is apt to, get through the gap between the walls and ceilings. He likes to lick out the recycling stored in there. As I reached in the recycling bin to pull out a yogurt container and I hit instead upon something soft, cold, and smooth. When I pulled my hand out for inspection, I was holding a handful of Al poop. Now I am not a mother and I have yet to be desensitized to the grossness that is poo. Yuck, yuck, yuck!

Don't you get it Al? My seasonal affections for the birds has now been transferred to my little seedlings. Eating my plants' compost is not a good way to endear yourself to me. And pooping in the recycling? Not cool, my friend. Not cool at all.

Friendship TERMINATED!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Snow and Seedlings

This weekend, we got another dumping of snow: 5-6 inches. What the heck? At least there's some greenery in the cabin to keep spirits high even when the view out the window remains snowy.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You Flushed WHAT down the toilet?!

My brother and I were schooled at an early age not to flush random things down the toilet. Among those random things? Lego men, pennies, Kleenex . . . anything other than a moderate amount of toilet paper and your business was a strict no-no. 

 Photo Credit
A couple of months ago, I read a blog post where the author admitted she judged people when she discovered they used generic toilet paper. While I wholeheartedly agree that name brand T.P. is pretty cushy, in this neck of the woods, something like Charmin is an unheard of luxury.

Around here, you're going to have to deal with "cheap", thin toilet paper. For one thing, I'd hate to be using more trees than necessary just so the world can have quilted T.P. For another, the thicker the T.P. the more likely it is to clog up the all important septic system.

In northern Minnesota, it seems we talk about septic systems an awful lot. That's because septic systems are expensive and bothersome. And contrary to popular belief, the toilet isn't a magic vortex ready to wrestle whatever gets flushed down it. (Oh the horror this poor heart of mine experienced when I heard tell of people flushing paper towels down their toilet!) Treat your septic system with care and it will treat you well in return.

Please don't judge me by my toilet paper. Judge me by my wonderful working septic system.

My dear friend Sarah was up for a visit this past week. She lives in the big city now and sometimes I forget that she's a northern girl like me, albeit, from the western part of the state. She's well-versed in septic system etiquette and coming from a family whose cabin has a holding tank, she knows the more waste water you dump down the drains, the harder your septic tank works and the faster it fills up.

The whole time she was up, she kept asking questions like:  "Is it okay if I dump the dirty dish water down the drain?" or  "Is it okay if I flush the toilet?"

One morning I heard the water running in the bathroom. After a couple minutes the water shut off and Sarah came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her head.

"Did you just take a shower?" I asked.

"Yeah, up at our cabin, we can only take 5 minute showers."

"You know, you can take a shower that's longer than that if you want," I said. "We have a full blown septic system."

"Nah, it's fine."

Good friends know you can't flush just anything down the toilet.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Who even cares about THAT?!

Lately there's been a bit of an uproar over all the hoopla about  Prince William and Miss Kate Middleton's upcoming marriage. American media gets all goofy when it comes to big news for U.K. Royalty and as per usual, this spring's Royal Wedding's getting hyped to death.With almost two week remaining until the April 29 ceremony at Westminster Abbey, it's easy to wish the media would just give the whole prince/princess wedding thing a rest. I mean, who even cares about THAT?! 

 *shyly raises arm*

I do.

Okay I'm not exactly checking out the Royal Wedding website every day, but what sort of Anglophile would if I didn't have even a passive interest in the pending royal nuptials?When an interesting article about the Royal Wedding pops up on Yahoo, I usually click on it  and . . . read it.

It's not that I really give a fig about what the royals are up to, but I think for many American children, the concept of a monarchy is something so removed from our daily lives that we can't help but get our fairy tale fantasies confused with these very real people. From my earliest days, the Royal Family has always evoked a sense of misplaced wistfulness in me: a faint wish Princess Di could be my mom, then a jovial wish that Prince William could be my husband and now just slight wish that whatever wonderful designer dress Kate gets herself into next Friday from now could be my wedding dress.

Sure the royals are just privileged, purposeless people in the modern world, but those who declare royal weddings most ridiculous must have very cold hearts indeed. I simply can not look at a royal wedding without my inner (and very suppressed) romantic letting out a teensy weensy little squeal. A royal wedding is the epitome of all that is wedding: endless extravagance, senseless traditions, pretty dresses, princess fantasies. What's not to love? (Did I mention the pretty dresses?)

The first time I visited London, in April 2003, Kensington Palace had a royal wedding dress exhibit. I loved seeing how the royal brides' dresses both reflected the era of the wedding and also influenced everyday brides' dresses for years after the royal wedding.

After all, if Victoria hadn't worn white to marry Albert, who knows what color dresses we'd be walking down the aisle in? 

Queen Elizabeth II saved up ration cards for the material used in her post WWII wedding dress.


Princess Di's wedding dress (which I have to admit, I don't much care for) is still culturally relevant today.



And my all time favorite royal wedding dress? Princess Margaret's 1960 number. It's all out class.

 
Sure the media could turn down a notch on Kate and Will wedding hype. But I'm not one to miss this satin, lace, and silk fantasy, no matter how silly it truly is.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's In My Purse . . .

Mama’s Losin’ It

It's a common stereotype that all girls are awfully fond of their shoes and purses. I haven't exactly risen above shoe stereotype. But purses? I don't need no stinkin' purses.

Sure there are some cute bags out there, but while shoe departments have some magnetic pull on me, more often than not, I can pass by the purse department without a second thought. I'd like to think my purse apathy means I'm not materialistic, but considering the fact that I can always find a spare $20 to drop on a pair of shoes regardless of said-shoes practicality or lack there of, I'm not really sure this is the case.

Nevertheless, my purse is just a bag that as all my sh, stuff in it.


I've been lugging around the same purse, a birthday present from a dear friend, for years now for my everyday purse purposes. It's made out of some weird plastic-y material (maybe recycled plastic bags?) and sadly, the handles are starting to fray. Guess I'll be forced to go purse shopping one of these days.   

One peep in my purse and it becomes pretty clear that I don't like to be unprepared.


On a typical day, my purse contains: 

1. Wallet

2. Grocery List: I'd love to be spontaneous, but usually that just results in me buying random things that "look good" and us not having enough food to actually last the week.

3. Cat Pin: I actually have a cat pin collection. This guy went through the washer and came out without its pin back. Bummer. I didn't realize I'd throw him in here.

4. Cell phone: Since this only works when I'm in town, this is always in my purse. Usually turned off.

5. Cell phone charger: However, sometimes I forget to turn off my phone when I'm at the cabin. Which results in one dead battery when I actually need to use my phone. 

6. Jumble of keys: What are these? Do I even use any of these? Hmmm . . .

7. Granola bar: I have no idea how old this is. But I'd hate to have to go hungry.

8. Chica bag: Great idea, usually forget I have this. Man, I could have used this the last time I went to the Co-op and thought I'd forgotten all my reusable grocery bags .

9. A purse hanger: Another thing I forget I have, but I love using it when I do remember it. It's actually really sturdy and keep my purse off the floor and out of harm's way when I'm in a restaurant. 

10.Tampons: My obsessive need to always have personal hygiene products probably hearkens back to my teenage years when that time of the month came at whatever time of the month it pleased. My body doesn't "surprise attack" me very often these days, but tampons can be pretty handy for other reasons. Take for incidence the time my friend spill diet pop all over a train's table in the booth we were sitting in. No one had a Kleenex or anything else to mop up the mess, so voila: tampon to the rescue. After all, they're very absorbent .  . .
11. Mini multi-tool: I never use this. Andy thought I might need it sometime. I suppose I might.

Usually my camera's in my purse too, just in case I happen upon something interesting. 

What's in your purse? Why? 

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